Save Our Public Schools NC – Holiday Card Bonanza

Wanted to make you aware of this. Good people doing good things for great kids. Please consider helping.

SAve Schools Christmas Card

From the “Details.”

Our North Carolina elected officials have persistently failed to prioritize public schools across our State. Strong public schools lead to increased home values, economic growth and stable communities. [Read below for a quick history on the K-3 Mandate.]

This holiday season, add your NC House Representative and NC State Senator to your holiday card list. Let’s make sure our representatives see the faces of the children in their districts who will be affected by the#ClassSizeChaos

1. Mark up your card using our slogan: “Fix The #ClassSizeChaos” and include your kids’ grade level, school name or favorite special. 
Include language stating the K-3 Mandate needs to be fixed in January 2018.

2. Have an extra minute? Include a message about how the #ClassSizeChaos will affect your family or school. Remind them that you vote and care about public schools.

If you don’t have family photo cards, send a regular card, holiday card, New Years card, post card, child’s drawing/artwork — heck, send a piece of scrap paper lying around, we don’t care! Just write to your two NC State representatives letting them know to Fix The #ClassSizeChaos in January 2018!

Wait. You need their addresses! Find out who represents you by inserting your address into the map here:

https://www.270towin.com/elected-officials/

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Quick History: In Spring 2017, the NC General Assembly passed an unfunded K-3 class size mandate which will require smaller class sizes in K-3 for ALL North Carolina elementary schools.

But wait! Aren’t smaller class sizes desirable? Of course. But the mandate lacked discussion with educational professionals and districts across the State and IT NEEDED FUNDING. Imagine smaller K-3 class sizes, but with the following potential impacts across our State:

– Eliminating Art, PE, Music, and Technology jobs to create $$ to pay new K-3 teachers
– 4th and 5th grade class sizes could swell to greater than 29:1 students: teacher ratio
– Middle & High School teaching jobs are cut, leading to larger class sizes to free up $$ to pay new K-3 teachers
– Specials (art, music, tech, languages, etc.) taught by unqualified K-3 teachers

Without funding, this legislation will ultimately diminish the overall educational experience of our children.
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Interested in how to make a greater impact? Join our FB page: Save Our Schools NC for more information, ask questions and find answers regarding the K-3 Statewide mandate, and help us advocate for public schools across North Carolina!

Gomer Pyle Makes a Citizen’s Arrest For Art Classes in NC

Did you ever see the Andy Griffith Show episode where Gomer makes a citizen’s arrest on Barney for making a U-turn on the main street? Take a look.

https://youtu.be/G-VJNJhPCNo

gomer

Baseball cap on sideways. Oily rag in back pocket. Impeccable logic. Steadfast loyalty to rules.

Gomer Pyle was always more than he seemed. So was the man who created that character.

Jim Nabors died today, and while he was a man born in Alabama, migrated to California and eventually settled in Hawaii, his Gomer Pyle character will always rank him as a North Carolinian as well – a North Carolinian who was accessible and relatable to so many who watched and continue to watch the Andy Griffith Show.

If what I have gleaned about Jim Nabors’s life is correct, he was born in the South and went to California and started working in the film industry. He began doing small time theatre and stage acting along with singing.

And Jim Nabors had a beautiful voice. My grandmother had his records in the house I grew up in. The stark contrast from his Gomer Pyle accent and his classically groomed baritone voice was just a reflection of his range as a performer.

We did not have cable growing up. We had an antenna for CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, and WTBS which aired episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., and the Carol Burnette Show. Jim Nabors was in all three, one of which showcased him as the star. I even remember him in a Sid and Marty Croft Saturday morning show when kids actually watched Saturday morning cartoons.

This middle aged public school teacher can remember the iconic “G-o-o-o-l-l-e-e” and the “Shazam!” and the “Gosh!” that became a staple of Nabors’s character.

Then I think of the fact that he was stage trained, worked in the film industry, was a singer (and therefore in the performing arts), and he played a character who was always more than he seemed.

Jim Nabors made an indelible impression on everyone who watched him perform and his Gomer Pyle is as Old State as it gets.

But the North Carolina that Gomer Pyle loved was a place where the film industry thrived and the arts were celebrated and woven into the fabric of schools. Is that the North Carolina we have today?

Of course NC still remains devoted to the military, but considering the public life of Gomer Pyle and the private life of Jim Nabors, NC has moved away from some of the very foundational tenets someone like Jim Nabors would have wanted to still remain.

Makes this citizen want to scream for a “Citizen’s Arrest.”

Can Berger, Moore, or Barefoot Explain This? Concerning School Funding Levels Pre and Post Recession

Today the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report on school funding in states that compared current funding with pre-recession levels.

Entitled “A Punishing Decade for School Funding”, the authors begin with this:

“Public investment in K-12 schools — crucial for communities to thrive and the U.S. economy to offer broad opportunity — has declined dramatically in a number of states over the last decade.  Worse, some of the deepest-cutting states have also cut income tax rates, weakening their main revenue source for supporting schools. 

Most states cut school funding after the recession hit, and it took years for states to restore their funding to pre-recession levels.  In 2015, the latest year for which comprehensive spending data are available from the U.S. Census Bureau, 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008” (https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-punishing-decade-for-school-funding).

Yes, North Carolina was one of those states.

In fact, North Carolina was mentioned in several instances.

“As of the current 2017-18 school year, at least 12 states have cut “general” or “formula” funding — the primary form of state support for elementary and secondary schools — by 7 percent or more per student over the last decade, according to a survey we conducted using state budget documents.”

North Carolina was one of those states.

“Seven of those 12 — Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahoma — enacted income tax rate cuts costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars each year rather than restore education funding.” 

There we are again.

“Not only did many states avoid raising new revenue after the recession hit, but some enacted large tax cuts, further reducing revenues. Seven of the 12 states with the biggest cuts in general school funding since 2008 ― Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Oklahoma ― have also cut income tax rates in recent years.”

And, again.

“In order to accurately compare past and current education spending, North Carolina’s numbers do not include funding for one-time bonuses and increases for salaries and benefits for education personnel.”

For those who may argue that there were bonuses and “salary increases,” there is a lot more to that.  Consider the following:

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/14/open-letter-to-gov-mccrory-and-the-ncga-concerning-bonus-pay-for-teachers/

https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/07/17/the-ignoramasaurus-rex-how-gov-mccrorys-claim-on-average-teacher-pay-is-not-really-real/

And from the footnotes:

“This analysis examines the 12 states with the deepest cuts in “formula” or general K-12 education funding as identified in CBPP’s 2016 paper “After a Nearly a Decade, School Investments Still Way Down in Some States.” These states are Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.  While Wisconsin appeared among the 12 deepest-cutting states in our 2016 paper, that state has been providing school districts with an increasingly large amount of general funding outside of the state formula.  Including this non-formula general aid, Wisconsin’s cuts since 2007-08 are not in the top 12.”

And for good measure, there’s a nice chart.

11-29-17sfp-f8

Won’t take long to see North Carolina in that list.

In the red.

Almost 20%.

Wow.

Why Teachers Should Be Wary of EVAAS and SAS

In October, the venerable James Ford of the Public School Forum delivered the keynote address at the North Carolina English Teacher’s Association. It was more than exceptional as Ford highlighted that what hurts our schools most are external factors that are not being dealt with such as systemic poverty.

Part of his presentation included a version of what is called the “Iceberg Effect” for education. It looks like this:

iceberg

Ford talked about (and he is not alone in this belief) how what is above the water, namely student outcomes, is what drives educational policies in our state.

Notice that he means what is visible above the water line is what drives policy. That is what the public sees in the press. That is what lawmakers and leaders hark on when discussing what to do about public education. That is what is being used to measure the effectiveness of teachers and schools.

In 2013, the state of North Carolina started using a value-added measurement scale to help gauge teacher effectiveness and school performance. Developed by SAS which is headquartered in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, EVAAS collects student data and creates reports that are used to measure teacher and school effectiveness.

EVAAS stands for “Education Value-Added Assessment System.” For teachers, it is supposed to give an indication of how well students are supposed to do in a given year on the tests that are used on evaluations. (Do not let it be lost on anyone that “EVAAS” scores were just released at the end of most schools’ first quarter after half of the block classes have already completed more than half of the curriculum’s work).

EVAAS has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny. It deserves every bit of that scrutiny. Why? Because the algorithms that it uses to come up with its calculations and reports are like a tightly held secret.

 

Think of the iceberg and what is seen and what is under the water line.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction describes EVAAS as:

EVAAS examines the impact of teachers, schools, and districts on the learning of their students in specific courses, grades, and subjects. Users can access colorful, easy-to-understand charts and graphs via the Web, as well as produce customized reports that predict student success, show the effects of schooling at particular schools, or reveal patterns in subgroup performance (http://www.ncpublicschools.org/effectiveness-model/evaas/).

There is even a nice little video that one can go to in order to “understand how EVAAS” works (https://ncdpi.sas.com/videos/EVAAS/WhatIsEVAAS.mp4).

EVAAS pic

The whole video is an attempt to validate the use of EVAAS by the state. Except it does not tell anyone how “EVAAS performs value-added analysis.” The only people who know how that works are inside of the Hawkins National Laboratory or as we know it, SAS headquarters.

This past March, Angela Scioli wrote a powerful piece for EDNC.org entitled “EVAAS: An incomplete and painful system for me.” In it she stated,

I did not change anything else about my teaching.  I did not know what to change.  No one met with me to intervene.  No one even spoke to me about the results.  It just sat there, like a black eye I couldn’t cover up, but no one wanted to talk about it.  

The next year, I received my EVAAS results, after using the same methods, and I was now deemed “highly effective.”  I was relieved and confused.  How could that be? (https://www.ednc.org/2017/03/21/evaas-incomplete-painful-system/).   

Justin Parmenter’s op-ed entitled “The cost of doing business in the education world” (August 9, 2017) was another powerful expose of a world in which EVAAS is being used to measure teachers and schools. He said,

In the years that followed, EVAAS was rolled out on a larger scale across the district and state, and similar data measuring teacher effectiveness was made available to more teachers. I was dismayed to see that, while some years I apparently had made a difference, there were other years when I did not make much of a difference at all. Some years I even made a negative difference (https://www.ednc.org/2017/08/09/cost-business-education-world/).

This criticism of EVASS is not limited to North Carolina. From the National Education Policy Center:

Education Policy Analysis Archives recently published an article by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley and Clarin Collins that effectively exposes the Houston Independent School District use of a value-added teacher evaluation system as a disaster. The Educational Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) is alleged by its creators, the European software giant SAS, to be the “the most robust and reliable” system of teacher evaluation ever invented. Amrein-Beardsley and Collins demonstrate to the contrary that EVAAS is a psychometric bad joke and a nightmare to teachers” (http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/houston-you-have-problem).

And the ambiguity of how SAS uses data within the EVAAS program is not lost on many people. From a 2014 WUNC report called “Ranking Teachers: NC Bets Big On A Complicated Stats Model,”

EVAAS is based on that student growth, not the test score itself. And the software is complicated – and some say largely secret. Teachers, principals, even administrators at the state level don’t know everything that goes into the model.

“Now the statisticians, and I’m not a statistician – I’m not the smartest guy in the world – they would say that stuff should even out, and I think they are correct, I’m sure it does even out, when you look at statewide data,” says Jim Key, an assistant superintendent in Durham. “But within a particular classroom? You could have more than a normal share of students who are going through some challenges with their personal lives” (http://wunc.org/post/ranking-teachers-nc-bets-big-complicated-stats-model#stream/0).

That last quote from Mr. Key accurately sums up the relationship between the EVAAS program and the Iceberg Effect.

Simply put, EVAAS only measures what is the tip of the iceberg that is above the water and then it tells us how to view it. It completely disregards what is under the water level.

LET ME REPEAT: EVAAS ONLY MEASURES WHAT IS TO BE SEEN, NOT WHAT LIES UNDERNEATH. IT IS ONLY CONCERNED WITH STUDENT OUTCOMES. IT DOES NOT ACCOUNT FOR “INEQUITY & INEQUALITY,” “STRESS & VIOLENCE,” “SUPPORT FOR SCHOOLS,” AND “SUPPORT FOR YOUNG FAMILIES.”

Teachers and schools measured by EVAAS actually have to battle against all of the iceberg, not just the tip which is by far the smallest part of the iceberg.

The state pays more than three million dollars annually to SAS which was co-founded and is still run by Jim Goodnight who according to Forbes Magazine is one of the top donating executives to political campaigns. In 2016 he donated much to a PAC for Jeb Bush who while in Florida instituted the school performance grade system that North Carolina uses now – the same one that utilizes EVAAS reports to measure schools (https://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/blog/techflash/2015/10/forbes-sas-goodnight-among-tech-execs-for-top.html).

It also is worth looking at the fact that his wife, Ann Goodnight, is a co-founder and board member of BEST NC. When BEST NC had its annual legislative meeting it brought in the toxic Michelle Rhee and her campaign for value-added measurements to discuss policy. That “closed-door” meeting was held at SAS headquarters.

The recent principal pay schedule that has garnered well-deserved criticism was spearheaded by BEST NC with legislators behind the scenes over the summer utilizes EVAAS data.

Too much is being dictated by a private entity that is privately calculating data in a secret fashion to measure a public good and how much should be spent on that public good in a state that wants to privatize that public good.

There’s too much incestuous synergy there. And all of it is purposefully ignoring the part of the iceberg that is beneath the water line.

In using EVAAS, what the state of North Carolina is doing is sending schools on expeditions in remote icy waters without the use of radar and sonar to navigate themselves. It’s like the Titanic.

But instead of being surprised at the fact that the “unsinkable” actually succumbed to a lonely iceberg, the state has already made a hole in the hull for water to leak in, so even if the “ships” avoid hitting icebergs, they would already have a hard time reaching port. As the “unsinkable” ships begin to sink, the state says we must invest in other alternatives like charter school reform and vouchers, so the money starts going to other modes of “transportation.”

The problem is that the icebergs in our state are getting bigger and more are breaking off. As the income gap widens and as segregationist tendencies begin to take firmer root, systems like EVAAS will still serve as a façade of the actual truth which lies beneath the water.

Of course, SAS could release how it uses data and calculates its reports but that would require transparency.

But icebergs work best in cold, murky, choppy waters. And people in Raleigh like having big icebergs.

So, How Is That Betsy DeVos Thing Working Out For You?

It has been a year since Donald Trump made Betsy DeVos his selection as Secretary of Education and thus began a much maligned, yet brief tenure, of one of the most controversial cabinet members in recent history.

DeVos’s resume coming into the office was not impressive and certainly one that displayed an unqualified individual whose intent on privatizing public education was already well-known.

The following is her resume in public education at this point last year:

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In fact,

  • Betsy DeVos still has no degree in education meaning she is still not even educated in how to educate.
  • Betsy DeVos still has no teaching experience. NONE, but she is the leading official for public schools in the nation.
  • Betsy DeVos never attended a public school or state supported university. None of her children have either.
  • Betsy DeVos’s monetary contributions to Christian-based schools and evangelical organizations has been conservatively estimated at $200 million. That is still growing.
  • Betsy DeVos is totally anti-union and believes that teachers are paid too much.
  • Betsy DeVos supports vouchers like no other.

But now that we are almost a year into this current administration, it might be worth looking at what DeVos has done as the highest public education official in the country.

  • Betsy DeVos has tirelessly promoted school choice without mentioning the challenges that come with school choice and the effects on traditional public schools.
  • Betsy DeVos proclaimed that schools need guns to protect them from grizzly bears.
  • Betsy DeVos remarked how historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) were the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” Just look at the speech at Bethune-Cookman during last year’s graduation to see the response to that.
  • Betsy DeVos has shown to be unknowledgeable of the basic tenants of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Betsy DeVos removed consumer protection rules on student loans and allowed for collection fees for some borrowers to be put back into effect.
  • Betsy DeVos removed protection for transgender students in public schools.
  • Betsy DeVos rolled back protections for victims in college campus sexual assault.
  • Betsy DeVos has allowed many positions in the Department of Education to remain vacant.
  • DeVos has cost taxpayers lots in just having a certain entourage with her on her travels because she is so polarizing that she requires security.
  • She’s still donating money to privatization efforts.

So how is this working out for us?

It’s not.

Unless you are a Dolores Umbrage fan.

betsy-devos

Civil Discourse in Public Education “Reform” Cannot Happen If You Refuse to Involve Teachers

civil discourse

Over the last year (and week), much has been said about the need for civility and constructive dialogue especially when discussing the topic of public education.

John Hood has a recent op-ed in EdNC.org entitled “Carolina needs civil, curious leaders.” It begins,

If you are involved in politics and public policy in North Carolina, I have some unwelcome news: lots of North Carolinians are dissatisfied with the quality of our political discourse and leadership (https://www.ednc.org/2017/11/22/carolina-needs-civil-curious-leaders/).

I am usually not in agreement with Hood on many things, but I do agree with this statement. He makes a good point.

However, I do take issue with the context in which it is said and the unrevised history that predates it. Hopefully, this post will be civil enough to explain. And yes, it is a little ironic that the subject of civil discourse be the central topic on a post by someone who named his blog Caffeinated Rage.

When you write a blog, you can control the dialogue. If someone makes a comment on a post who does not agree with what is said, it can be dismissed and never posted, but I do not make disagreement a reason for not posting a comment (although cursing and profanity are not published as well as threats to a person).

The issue that this teacher takes is that in order for civil discourse to happen, all parties need to be at least invited to the conversation. And there are a lot of people who have been deliberately not invite to the table, namely teachers.

Mr. Hood has written extensively about the educational reforms that have happened in North Carolina, mostly in praise of what the North Carolina General Assembly has done in the past five years. Just recently he published “On reform, quicken the pace” (https://www.ednc.org/2017/09/25/reform-quicken-pace/). He began that one with the following:

The annual testing data and report cards for North Carolina’s public schools are out. Here are the headlines. Achievement rose in some areas and declined in others, with most changes being fairly small. Our graduation rate continued to rise, but other data suggest some of these graduates aren’t really college- or career-ready.

The testing mechanisms, the formulas used to measure and disseminate data, and the criteria of the report card grades were constructed by lawmakers and their appointed officials. What civil discourse was there in the creation of those measures?

The “requirements,” the “evaluation protocols,” and the funding of resources were also in the control of lawmakers. Was there any civil discourse when those were created and enacted?

And data about being “college – or career ready?” Betsy DeVos recently gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal and made the following claim:

Children starting kindergarten this year face a prospect of having 65 percent of the jobs they will ultimately fill not yet having been created” (http://www.chalkbeat.com/posts/us/2017/11/21/to-back-up-claim-that-schools-must-change-devos-cites-made-up-statistic-about-the-future-of-work/).

There is absolutely no evidence for that data. Just read the rest of the Chalkbeat report referenced above.

DeVos is not one to be able to bring a lot of people to the table for a civil discourse. She is too polarizing. And while Hood has defended her (“DeVos attackers surrender higher ground”) with a nice armor, he seems to forget that in the discussion of public education, it probably would help if the people in the discussion actually were knowledgeable of public education. In that defense Hood said,

Conservatives like DeVos who believe that applying conservative principles to education policy would benefit students and the public at large could certainly be mistaken. But we have good reasons for advocating the reforms we do. Those reasons stem from personal experience, empirical evidence, and basic insights about why organizations succeed or fail. In our view, those who question our motives are implicitly granting that they can’t refute our arguments. They are surrendering the high ground, not fighting for it” (https://www.carolinajournal.com/opinion-article/devos-attackers-surrender-high-ground/).

The use of “we” with Betsy DeVos, the claim of “personal experiences” about public education, “empirical evidence” that was not evidenced by DeVos’s earlier claim on future jobs, and “basic insights” about a public good that is not an organization is not grounds for claiming the high ground.

In fact (and in the most civil way possible), the very reforms that Hood and others in the conservative movement have championed have done more to hurt public education than help it. Consider:

  • Opportunity Grants
  • Unregulated charter school growth
  • Push for merit pay
  • Removal of due-process rights
  • Removal of graduate degree pay
  • Principal pay restructuring
  • Change in standardized tests
  • Changes in how schools are graded
  • Changed in teacher recruitment
  • Teacher pay unevenly restructured
  • School funding debated in a hurried fashion
  • State Board suing the State Superintendent over unconstitutional transfer of power
  • An Innovative School District that has little public support

And that’s just a small sampling of “reforms” by a General Assembly that has had more laws overturned in court than they had special sessions to come up with those laws. That’s the same General Assembly that forced a Voter ID law in gerrymandered districts.

Where was the civil discourse in those actions? That is not a rhetorical question. Where was the civil discourse there?

Those actions have literally thrown public school teachers (especially veterans) out of the very room where the discourse is supposed to happen. How else can we be heard and more importantly the students whom we serve be heard without raising our voices with higher pitched tones?

Hood stated in the originally referenced op-ed,

“I believe in the value of structured, face-to-face programs. But they can’t scale up large enough to solve the problem on their own. Everyone has a role to play.

We can start by making concerted efforts to avoid politicizing all our personal and professional relationships, or thinking we can always know why “they” disagree with us. Why not ask them?”

Hard to be “face-to-face” when you aren’t allowed in the room. And yes, everyone has a “role to play,” but when a few are constantly redefining the very roles that others are playing, then it is already an uncivil situation.

And veteran teachers are not being “asked” about why they disagree with these “reforms.”

Because someone claims to have taken the “high ground” does not dismiss the fact that many have been thrown out of the conversation. Because someone claims to have taken the “high ground” does not dismiss that there is no empirical evidence that what North Carolina has done as far as “reforms” are concerned has actually helped the public education system. Because someone claims to have taken the “high ground” does not dismiss the fact that someone who is highly financed tends to be able to command a least a sizable reading audience.

But those claims do not make that someone “more correct.”

It means that public school advocates are having to speak up more frequently and with more volume to at least be heard with the hopes of being listened to. And many of those advocates are the very teachers who civilly discourse with hundreds of students, parents, and public school stakeholders on daily basis without politicizing the very issues that bring them all together.

It is why some of us drink a lot of coffee and write a blog.

Thankful for Public School Advocates

Maybe today is a good day to mention how thankful I am for public school advocates. And it’s not just today, but every single day that I am thankful.

And that thankfulness has grown into gratitude.

And that gratitude means that I am grateful.

And to me being grateful means that I add action to being thankful and hopefully “pay it forward.”

I began this blog about 18 months ago as a way of helping advocate for public education as  a teacher in public schools, a parent of public school students, and a willing taxpayer who helps finance public schools. On this digital journey, I have come in contact with some of the most tireless public school advocates whose actions to preserve and strengthen our public good continually inspire me to do more.

I am thankful for that.

It is no secret that we stand at a sort of crossroads here in North Carolina when it concerns public education. We have many in power who truly believe that privatizing public education through vouchers, unregulated charter schools, takeover schemes, and constantly changing, yet nebulous standards is the way to proceed.

Public school advocates have fought against this – yesterday, today, and will tomorrow.

I am thankful that people are speaking out against “deforms” in our state system.

I am thankful that people are holding lawmakers and elected officials accountable.

I am thankful that people are showing support for schools in so many ways and becoming involved.

I am thankful that people are beginning to assert themselves as advocates knowing that when it comes to our students we cannot settle for compromise when we say we promise them a good education.

I am thankful that there are organizations and groups committed to helping public education.

I am thankful that so many people have turned their thankfulness into gratitude and taken action to support our schools whether urban, suburban, rural, and all places in between.

I am thankful that it makes me grateful.

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Dear State Supt. Johnson: Are You Actually Going To Take A Stand or Continue Rubber-Stamping?

What happened this past week with the state superintendent’s office is yet another example of the redundant walking contradiction that is the tenure of Mark Johnson.

On Friday it was announced that State Superintendent Mark Johnson hired two new staff members: an associate state superintendent for early childhood education and a leader for the school business modernization project.

As reported by Kelly Hinchcliffe on WRAL.com,

“State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced Friday that he has added two people to his leadership team at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Michael Spano, who started this week and will be paid $110,000 annually, is leading the school business modernization program. Pamela Shue, who begins later this month and will be paid $126,000 annually, will be associate superintendent for early childhood education. Both are newly created positions” (http://www.wral.com/nc-superintendent-hires-staff-for-new-early-education-school-business-positions/17122706/).

This is all part of the “budget” of taxpayer money that the state has given Johnson to hire people only beholden to him.

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Actually, it’s more than $432,644.

Hinchcliffe states,

“Johnson also plans to hire an information and communications specialist. The position is part of $700,000 in taxpayer money lawmakers gave the superintendent to hire new staff for his office. The money allows Johnson to create up to 10 full-time positions and hire staff without approval of the State Board of Education, a key provision lawmakers granted him as he battles the state board in court over control of the public school system.”

That battle with the state board obviously has involved a lot of money in legal fees and while the state board is using its allotted budget to fight against Johnson’s unconstitutional power grab, Johnson is using taxpayer money to fight a legal battle to represent a bunch of lawmakers who refuse to use taxpayer money to fully fund the very schools that service most all of the children of those taxpayers.

The taxpayers that Johnson is supposed to serve.

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Besides the hiring of Ms. Shue at twice the salary of a veteran educator is doubly redundant. Why? BECAUSE THERE IS ALREADY A 23-PERSON STAFF IN PLACE FOR EARLY LEARNING CALLED THE OFFICE OF EARLY LEARNING.

Let’s go further than that. Johnson is spending taxpayer money to hire people to do work already taken care of and wage legal war against the state board of education when the very General Assembly that is financing him and propping him up just cut the budget for the Department of Public Instruction by nearly %20 over the next two years.

And just this past week, it was reported by Lindsay Wagner in “Without action, class size mandate threatens Pre-K in some school districts” on the Public School Forum of North Carolina website,

Without the necessary time and money to build more elementary school classrooms to satisfy the General Assembly’s requirement to lower class sizes next year in kindergarten through third grades, Warren County Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Ray Spain says he’s looking at eliminating most or all of his Pre-Kindergarten classes district wide.

“It’s going to be disastrous.”

Spain says he’s forced to consider this scenario because there’s simply not enough space in Warren County’s elementary schools to give the older children more teachers and smaller classes while also giving low-income 4-year-olds an early learning environment that, a large body of research says, is critical for their success in kindergarten and beyond (https://www.ncforum.org/without-action-class-size-mandate-threatens-pre-k-in-some-school-districts/). 

Pre-K education is the very initiative for which Shue was hired to oversee is already being threatened by an unfunded mandate that Johnson has not fought against. There is nothing on record from Johnson that has been reported concerning this action.

It doesn’t stop there. Last week it was also bantered about by the gerrymandered Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform an idea to scrap the teacher salary schedule.

Has Johnson said anything about that?

Of course he has not. He should have been the first to make a comment.

In fact, the last time many teachers have heard from him was a video message with one of those surveys attached to it. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGYhL-1gOXs&feature=youtu.be.

It is not very in-depth. It talks about using technology to do professional development with a free-tool that he identified within IBM’s Watson program. It’s nice, but he fails to even acknowledge the herd of elephants in the room. One of those elephants is “time.”

In the video Johnson accomplishes a lot of things: he uses technology to “communicate” with teachers; he offers a chance for teachers affected by the HB13 law to get more resources for an ever changing pool of standards; and he gets to feel like he has helped teachers.

What really happened is that he got to not answer direct questions, specifically how are teachers going to be able to take advantage of this resource when the state has put so much on them that they have to get professional development on their own time rather than attend together in collaborative settings like it used to be when North Carolina was a leading state school system.

And time might be the most valuable resource that teachers are in need of. Katherine Correll’s recent op-ed in EdNC.org makes a great case for this – https://www.ednc.org/2017/11/14/need-provide-teachers-luxury-time/.

When Mark Johnson does not have the time to address the very contradictions of the “reforms” that he both defends and champions, then his silence begins to scream louder than any of the propaganda coming from people like Phil Berger, Tim Moore, and Chad Barefoot.

If Johnson is to make any case for being a leader, then he needs to stick out his neck and speak up more and do something he hasn’t done so far: spend time fighting for public schools rather than spending time rubber stamping bad reforms.

It Still Was A Perfect Season

Any team that has goals and aspirations truly strives to end the season with a winning streak; however, usually only one team can really end the year with one.

At least when it comes to the actual score.

The result of last night’s game will not set easy for those who competed and the sting of a loss on the scoreboard will not wear off anytime soon. That owes to the competitive spirit.

But for so many reasons, this season still ended with a winning streak.

Think of the crowds for every game. Home AND away.

Think of how some away games had more of your fans than the home team’s did.

Think of the loudest student section this side of the state.

Think of how you never thought you were not in the game.

Think of how much you made the second half the scariest part of the game for all of your opponents.

And yes, that may be the last game for some of the seniors in a formal setting, but a tradition endures, an ethic carries on, and a culture of success grows.

It was amazing to see some of the tweets from players, students, and fans alike who showed pride and love for team and school. If anyone wants to see “community,” then he / she would just need to witness this team and its fans.

I never wanted to be anywhere else on a Friday night, and while I could not go to every game, I am grateful to have seen this team play as many times as I have.

Simply a privilege to be a part of and witness what I got to see and experience.

This team will reload – not rebuild. And knowing the grit of this team, they will start preparing for next season now.

I already know where I want to be on Friday nights starting next August.

That goes double for this kid.

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